Malignant (cancerous) tumors of the throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx) and tonsils are all grouped together under the heading of throat cancers. Throat cancer is also referred to as laryngeal cancer. The muscular tube that makes up your throat extends from behind your nose to your neck.
Your voice box lies slightly below your throat, and contains the vocal cords that allow you to speak, and your tonsils sit at the back of your throat, where cancerous tumors can also develop.
Throat cancer is most often attributed to excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, and chewing tobacco, as well as infection with particular strains of the human papilloma virus.
Early symptoms of throat cancer are non-specific, meaning they can be easily confused with other harmless conditions, and can include a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, and a sensation of or an actual lump in the throat.
If the symptoms persist for a significant period of time and you experience several of them at the same time, your physician will likely order more specific tests. If detected early enough, throat cancer can be effectively treated and has a high survival rate.
There are several known risk factors associated with throat cancer, including:
The early symptoms of throat cancer are non-specific, and can easily be confused with
other harmless conditions, including:
If the symptoms persist for a significant period of time and you experience several of them at the same time, your physician will likely order more specific tests.
If your doctor suspects throat cancer, you will receive a referral to a specialist, known as an otolaryngologist, who will use a small mirror and light to look in your throat. The specialist may spray your throat with an anesthetic and then insert a flexible, thin endoscope down your nose and the back of your throat.
This instrument has a light and camera for visualization. If necessary, a tissue biopsy will be taken from your throat and sent to a lab where it will be examined under a microscope for the presence of cancer cells.
If the specialist confirms that you have throat cancer, additional tests will be performed to assess whether the cancer has spread. These tests may include an MRI or CT scan and a biopsy of the lymph nodes.
The CO2 laser system used for TLM